Sex and Relationships for HIV Positive Women Since HAART: A Quantitative Study

In the current study, researchers asked 82 HIV-positive women to complete questionnaires addressing demographics, relationships, sexual behavior, and safer sex practices. Investigators administered the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and the Golombok-Rust Inventory of Sexual Satisfaction (GRISS). Their objective was to find out about current levels of sexual activity, enjoyment, condom use, and other factors in a sample of women with HIV.

The authors found that 28 percent of women had had no sexual partners since diagnosis, and time since diagnosis was not associated with having had a sexual partner. The mean time since diagnosis was 69 months, range 4-191 months. Fifty-nine percent of women surveyed had a current sexual partner, with half reporting intercourse in the past month.

Among the most prevalent sexual difficulties, the investigators found infrequent sex (84 percent), avoidance (84 percent), non-communication (69 percent), and dysfunction (60 percent). Endorsement of HIV-impaired sexual enjoyment was associated with reduced sexual frequency (p = 0.006) and sexual dysfunction (p = 0.042). Sexual dissatisfaction was associated with infrequency of sex (p = 0.037), avoidance (p = 0.02), and non-communication (p = 0.032).

The authors found clinically significant levels of anxiety and depression in 60 percent and 38 percent of cases, respectively. Depression was associated with avoidance of sex and higher total GRISS scores (p = 0.006 and p = 0.042). Sixty percent of respondents said they "always" used condoms. Investigators observed a trend between reduced condom use and higher levels of depression and anxiety (p = 0.09 and p = 0.06, respectively).

"Sexual difficulties, including abstinence, were prevalent in this sample indicating the potential for interventions addressing the psychosexual needs of HIV positive women and their partners," the authors concluded.